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Cult of Youth

Nature-hating ex-NYU couple finds indie fans.

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Both Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, who front the indie-pop group Cults, have long, shaggy hair more befitting an Allman Brothers cover band than a couple of emotionally intense post-teens. But don’t mistake these 22-year-olds for Gen-Y hippies: “We have a motto: ‘Fuck nature,’ ” Oblivion (whose real name is Ryan Mattos) declares. “Whenever we go out into it, really bad things happen.” Still, they’re the kind of fundamentalist urbanites who seem to often hail from sunny, suburban places. Both grew up in San Diego, though Follin spent half her time in New York with her artist-musician mother and a stepfather who was a founding member of White Zombie. The pair attended NYU but met at Follin’s brother’s rock show in San Diego. “I had to sneak her in because she wasn’t 21,” Oblivion recalls. They started dating and decided to move in together back in New York. “We’d known each other for a week, but that was two and a half years ago, so I guess it worked out,” he says. The band started as something to do around the house. “I would put little snippets of songs together, and Madeline would jokingly sing them back at me,” Oblivion remembers. “A week later, we put them online. And two weeks after that, we started getting e-mails and show offers,” says Follin. Their self-titled debut, an uncommonly varied collection of baroque pop and tremulous, sassy, Victorian-inflected punk, was recorded last year. It earned them rave reviews and famous fans like Jim Jarmusch, and they dropped out of school. “When we started the band, we had a sit-down with our parents, and Madeline’s mom referred to rock and roll as a disease in their family,” Oblivion says. “She was like, ‘I am so sick of dealing with the music industry. You are the one that goes to college; you are the one that gets a normal job.’ But you know what? A lot of my friends who are college graduates are not doing so hot right now. We had an opportunity to start our own business, and we had to take it.”


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